A Dukes County grand jury returned indictments today against a Falmouth-based fuel company and its manager, charging that they failed to report an oil spill in Oak Bluffs, on June 19, 2009. Loud Fuel Co., and its manager Kabraul Tasha face one count each of failure to report an oil spill and environmental endangerment.
The defendants are scheduled for arraignment in Dukes County superior court on September 28. State attorney general Martha Coakley announced the true bills on Tuesday, July 27.
Tasha was allegedly delivering gasoline to Jim’s Package Store at 27 Lake Street, Oak Bluffs. The indictment charges that he failed to properly connect the gas line from his truck to one of the fill ports at the gas station. While filling that port, approximately 50 gallons of gasoline spilled onto the ground in the alley where the ports are located, between Jim’s Packaging store and a neighboring restaurant. Authorities further allege that once Tasha became aware of the spill, he made some efforts to clean up the gasoline with absorbent pads in his truck, but he did not notify the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that the spill had occurred, despite the law that requires that the appropriate authorities be notified in the event of a gas spill of 20 or more gallons. By statute, failure to report allows for a fine for up to $100,000, or up to 20 years in prison. Environmental endangerment can get fined $50,000, or up to one year.
“It is vitally important that oil spills are reported in a timely manner to minimize any damage to surrounding natural resources and local communities,” General Coakley said.
DEP officials inspected the property in the days following the spill, after a neighboring business reported smelling gasoline. At the request of the DEP, Loud Fuel, the company responsible, hired a licensed site professional to clean up the property and submitted a report outlining the immediate response actions it took to counteract the damage, according to a press release.
Tuesday’s indictments stem from an investigation by the Massachusetts environmental crimes strike force (ECSF), an interagency unit that includes prosecutors from the attorney general’s office, environmental police officers assigned to the attorney general’s office, and investigators and engineers from the Massachusetts department. The case was investigated by the ECSF, which is overseen by General Coakley, DEP commissioner Laurie Burt and Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary Ian A. Bowles. The ECSF investigates and prosecutes crimes that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.